Marquette Wire

SCHENIDER: An alternative 21st birthday

My experience drinking for the first time

Photo by Photo by Duncan Schneider

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The concept of drinking alcohol has always been weird to me. No one ever told me I shouldn’t drink, or threatened me with punishment if I did. All my cousins, uncles, aunts and even my grandparents drink heavily. This is Wisconsin after all, where it’s almost insulting to not have a beer at a family gathering.

My mother, my father and my Jesuit uncle are the only members of their respective families who don’t drink. Therefore I grew up amongst people who drank Mountain Dew and Pepsi instead of Jack Daniels and Bud Lite. Up until my freshman year of college, the only form of alcohol I’d had was wine on Sundays and beer brats during Packer games.

So as my 21st birthday loomed ahead of me, I wondered what I should do to mark the occasion. I’d heard of people going bar-hopping or beer tasting to celebrate coming of age, but something about that just didn’t resonate with me. What should I, someone who had been virtually sober my whole life, do for my birthday?

At an event I went to last year I overheard a conversation about a bar called Safe House, which my eavesdropping told me was spy-themed and absolutely amazing. Immediately curious, I started asking around, attempting to garner whether or not it’d be a good place to spend my birthday. My father said he had been there a few times with buddies, and a few of my friends recalled hearing that it was a cool place. I decided that I would go there for my 21st, not for the liquor, but for the atmosphere.

The day of my 21st, September 14 2016, finally arrived. My dad picked me up from my apartment, and I bade my roommate farewell. Who knew if I would even return from my birthday? After all, I had never drank heavily before. I must be a lightweight, right?

We pulled into a parking space on Wells St., and made our way to Safe House’s front door in a dark alleyway.  A couple of rowdy patrons were just leaving the entrance when we walked in.

The woman in the entryway looked up from her book and greeted us. She lined us up against the wall and asked if we could show off our best six-shooter poses. I did but was startled as she played a gunshot noise through the speaker behind me, and a puff of air hit me square in the face. I’m ashamed to say that she completely got me. Laughing, my father and I opened the secret door to the restaurant, and walked into the bar where a chorus of voices greeted us. My kerfuffle at the entrance had been shown on a TV at the bar for everyone to see.

After some exploring we sat down and were served by a tall man with a name tag that said, “Hello, my name is Zero.” Being new to alcohol, I asked him what he recommended. Snapping his fingers, he went behind the bar and returned with a bourbon old-fashioned sweet.  I took my first sip and my lips immediately twisted. Despite being a relatively tame drink, it was still too much for me. The waiter gave me a sidelong glance as he took it away, in favor a new drink; rum and coke. My dad assured me that this was a better drink, but that I shouldn’t force myself to drink it if I didn’t like it.

While we waited for my new drink, we got our first dish: delicious, melty cheese curds. I mowed them down in seconds while Zero brought my rum and coke. I took a huge gulp and my throat immediately started burning. I coughed a few times, and I set the drink down. I suppose I will never understand why people enjoy drinks that taste as bad as they feel going down

Finally, the food came. My burger was exquisite, and once my meal was finished the waiter brought out an equally delicious slice of cake, complete with a firecracker on top.

After we had finished our dessert my father and I explored the rest of Safe House, watched a magician perform and visited the adjoining Newsroom Pub. Eventually we squeezed into the phone booth exit, and after paying a dollar we received a call on the booth’s phone, a secret door whirred open and we exited through a secret underground passageway. Safe House was a terrific place to go for my birthday. I had tons of fun, and the atmosphere was spectacular. While my 21st was a unique and enjoyable experience, I think I’ll stick to soda until something better tasting comes along.

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